Organic visibility is the gift that keeps on giving for local marketers. Massive fortunes can be gained—and lost—through organic capability. Organic search refers to the results that people get when they enter a search term or phrase into the search bar of Google or another search engine.
Organic Search Carries Clout
Organic visibility is the opposite of paid. The important thing to understand about organic is that it’s earned. You can’t pay to be there. Google, Bing, and the other search engines really look at a wide range of factors—in fact, Google is said to have more than 300 criteria in their algorithm that they use to determine which sites rank higher.
Organic is everything you’re doing to earn a spot in search results. While there are more than 300 criteria that all contribute to your ranking, Google consistently tells us that the most important factor is delivering relevant, high-quality content that matches up with what people are searching for. More and more they’re looking for local content, or local products and services. And Google and other search engines know that. So, they reward sites with content that they feel their audience—the people searching for information—will value.
The process or effort behind ranking higher is called search engine optimization, or SEO. That’s part of the organic puzzle. But, as we’ll see, there are other ways you can bolster your efforts to boost SEO.
First a look at some key concepts critical to local search strategy.
Domain Authority vs. Local Relevance
Domain authority and local relevance are two important concepts for multi-location marketers to understand.
Domain authority refers to the authority, or power, a website has because of the power of their brand and the volume of search traffic they generate. A brand like Pella Windows, for example, has high domain authority. That’s great on a national level, but most search traffic these days is local search—someone looking for a local service provider or retailer. Many brands attempt to leverage their domain authority at the local level through location pages on their national brand websites. But one page about a local market in a website of hundreds, if not thousands, of pages, will not outperform local websites focused on a single market.
That’s where local relevance comes into play. A big brand with high domain authority may or may not have high local relevance. In fact, often they don’t for the reasons stated above. What that requires, is ensuring that each brand location has a website that is optimized for local search. That means content that is unique and relevant to the local market—not generic content copied over from the national brand’s site.
Local relevance is critical from a search standpoint when a consumer is actively looking for the solution for some need they have. It’s the “last mile” of their search—the final stage in their process of selecting a service provider. A local website highly relevant to the local market will achieve higher rankings for more search terms. This will help your local representatives be more visible to more people looking for what you have to offer.
If your site doesn’t come up during the last mile of a consumer’s search, you basically don’t exist—and you don’t get the sale.
Local Relevance Makes a Difference
Here’s a great example of how local relevance can drive results.
We have a national home services brand we work with that has over 100 markets in the United States and Canada. They spend millions of dollars a year on paid digital advertising and they’re experienced marketers. But, for years, they really struggled with how to break through in their local markets organically because they were competing with local businesses.
A local business only has to focus on one site. A national brand with multiple locations—in this case more than 100 locations—has to focus on each of those locations. Obviously, that can be a significant challenge.
But an appropriate and effective strategy, and technology can help do this at scale, making it possible to optimize 10, 100, 1000, or more local sites.
In this case, we put in place some of these strategies and they were able to generate organic leads across all of their local markets at about 1/25th of the cost that they had seen when converting paid digital marketing. Organic search is extremely valuable and absolutely worth the time to think about how it can be leveraged effectively in local markets.
The Elements of SEO
Unique, locally relevant search is important and certainly needs to be an area of focus to boost SEO. But it’s not the only element of effective SEO. In addition, multi-location brands need to ensure that each site:
- An accurate and optimized Google Business Profile.
- Claimed its business listings from top sites and that they have consistent and accurate business information for each location, including local and niche industry directories.
- A high number of quality reviews across top websites including Google, Facebook, Better Business Bureau, various Yellow Page directories, and industry specific sites relevant to your business--like Angie, Home Advisor, Amazon, Trip Advisor, Health Grades, WebMD, etc.
- A high number of relevant backlinks and citations from trusted sites.
- Implemented onsite SEO best practices to ensure the local websites have the appropriate keyword and geographic focus, page titles, headlines, meta data, schema, and internal linking structures to let the search engines know what the business is about.
Effective local SEO requires a combination of tactics, applied strategically at each site location that can help to drive traffic to ensure that your site shows up during that last mile of a consumer’s search for what you have to offer.
If you’re not visible, you don’t exist.
MarketSnare can help you market each of your locations as if it’s your only location to build—and maintain—dominance in local search.